Wigan 4 Brisbane 30
Even the loss of their natural leaders in both backs and forwards could not stop the Brisbane Broncos striding to a convincing victory at Central Park last night.
Brisbane lost their scrum-half and captain Allan Langer midway through the first half and then their Test prop Glen Lazarus with a suspected dislocated ankle. Despite that double blow, they soaked up everything Wigan could throw at them before stretching away majestically in the latter stages to win with ease.
The Broncos are rightly famous for their dazzling attacking skills, but last night Wigan never once looked like finding a way through their defence and were reduced to trying to kick their way over the top of it.
The only try of a gruelling first half, which also claimed Lee Hansen among its casualties, came when Langer slipped the ball to his half-back partner, Kevin Walters. It looked forward, but Walters was allowed to go on and touch down, Darren Lockyer converting from a wide angle.
Wigan had their invitations to get over the byline, especially when Brisbane had Michael Devere sin-binned after he and Darren Smith had stopped Craig Murdoch from playing the ball when Wigan made one of their tentative breaks. Andy Farrell landed the penalty to add to the one with which he had put Wigan ahead in the fourth minute, but a try continued to elude them.
Their best opportunities came in the period leading up to half-time, but a short-handed Brisbane defence held firm for 12 tackles and the nearest Wigan could come was when Farrell's bomb deflected to Andy Johnson, but he was stopped just short.
There was a lesson in finishing needed and Brisbane provided it after the break. First Anthony Mundine went gliding through for one try. Then, after Wigan had again enjoyed a period of pressure without capitalising on it, Mundine laid on the pass that sent Steve Renouf in.
A penalty, awarded when Neil Cowie tangled with Wendell Sailor, allowed Lockyer to land his third goal, but by then Wigan knew they were not going to break down the Broncos' remorseless tackling. Even with Ben Walker sinbinned for obstruction for the last few minutes there was still no way through. As time ran out and Wigan wilted, Mundine led a length of the field move for Lockyer to underline Brisbane's superiority and Sailor rounded it off with a long-range effort in injury time.
The Auckland Warriors, with three tries from Tea Ropati, hammered the Bradford Bulls 64-4 in Auckland yesterday while the Hunter Mariners beat Castleford 26-8 to remain unbeaten in the World Club Championship.
Wigan: Paul; Robinson, Connolly, Radlinski, A Johnson; Wright, Murdock; O'Connor, Cassidy, Cowie, Lester, Haughton, Farrell. Substitutes used: Hansen, Holgate, Cardiss. Substitute not used: Tallec.
Brisbane: Lockyer; Devere, Taylor, Renouf, Mundine; Walters, Langer; Lazarus, Driscoll, Gee, Ryan, Thorn, Smith. Substitutes: B Walker, S Walker, Lee, Carroll.
Details, Digest, page 19